Sandra Begay, center, talks with interns about how a photovoltaic panel works to generate electricity. The DOE has offered the internship program through Sandia since 2002. Picture taken at the Mission San Esteban Rey in the Pueblo of Acoma. Photo credit: Randy Montoya

Internship program paves successful path for American Indian and Alaska Native students

August 9, 2021 8:11 am Published by

American Indian and Alaska Native science, technology, engineering, and math students face extraordinary odds when pursing higher education. As the most underrepresented group in STEM education, AI and AN students often enter the workforce as a significant minority with little support. According to a 2015 National Action Council for Minorities in Engineering report, AI and AN students represented only 0.4% of all engineering bachelor’s degree recipients, 0.3% of the engineering workforce, and 0.1% of all engineering faculty. AI and AN students can intern at Sandia through the DOE’s Office of Indian Energy Policy and Programs internship program.

The program, implemented through Sandia, offers unique interactions with professional connections to tribal leaders and staff based on personal rapport. Interns also gain access to seminars and conferences that showcase tribal energy projects as well as meet-and-greet opportunities with energy leaders and staff.

DOE Indian Energy interns leverage their experiences at Sandia and beyond to complete a diverse set of research work. Since its inception, the program has hosted 44 undergraduate and graduate students, 60% female, from 13 tribal affiliations. On average, approximately 20% of the interns convert to year-round status, while 15% were hired as Sandia employees.

After their internships, former interns have focused their work: 50% of students pursue research directly related to tribal energy work, 36% seek research in STEM and 4% seek nonprofit work.

Learn about past interns and how they use their internship experience daily.

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